Review Summary: Rise Against deliver another appeal to reason, but is there a savior listening?
The fourth largest earthquake ever recorded strikes a major economic power... A subsequent tsunami devastates a city and has others on major alert... The world awaits for fear of a Chernobyl like nuclear meltdown. It sounds like the plot of a disaster movie... Or maybe even the theme for a concept album concerning the end of the world! Yet, the disaster spoken of is unfortunately no fictionalized account. It struck Japan on Friday, March-11... The very same day on which Rise Against's sixth LP 'Endgame' was officially released to parts of the world! While critics will bemoan the Chicago-based quartet for continuing their evolution towards a more accessible sound - just like on aptly named predecessor 'Appeal to Reason' - is anyone really listening... Or are they just hearing what they want to hear?
When passionate lead vocalist Tim McIlrath belts out "Don't you remember when you were young and you wanted to set the world on fire?" on blistering opener 'Architects', the majority immediately believe it to be a shot at fellow punk legends Against Me!, because it is simply the most sensationilistic thing to assume. "If we just take a step back, a bigger picture we might view" cries 'Disparity By Design', and this is exactly what Rise Against are attempting to convey. If quoting their peers assists in achieving such an objective, then so be it. "Are you out there on the front lines, or at home keeping score?" McIlrath earlier asks. Well, it's fair to state that his band are in the former camp, looking to inspire as many people as they possibly can. Rise Against have never hidden from the fact that their message is of paramount importance, and to see them use what is essentially a non-mainstream musical genre to communicate that to such a large audience, is a meritorious achievement in itself.
Throughout 'Endgame', Rise Against are not always so general with their themes. Bouncy first single 'Help Is on the Way' deals with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill on the Gulf of Mexico area ("Choking on the black gold, upon which we rely"), 'A Gentlemen's Coup' touches on the consequences of nuclear radiation, while 'Make It Stop (September's Children)' concerns the multiple suicides which occurred as a result of homophobic bullying last September. While many will feel the utilization of children's vocals and climactic name reading to be gimmicky, they are effective devices employed to bring awareness to such a worthwhile issue. Just as compelling is 'Survivor Guilt', a sequel of sorts to the polarizing acoustic track 'Hero of War'. This time around however, Rise Against deliver their anti-war message in the form of a simultaneously hectic and anthemic cut, which astutely incorporates samples of dialogue from the 1970 satirical war film 'Catch-22'.
Musically, those looking for a return to the raw, hardcore punk sound of the band's earlier work will be disappointed. While tracks such as the frantic 'Disparity By Design', gang vocal led 'A Gentlemen's Coup', and almost dirty sounding 'Midnight Hands' & 'Broken Mirrors' will appeal, the majority of the album is slickly produced to enhance the melodic nature of songs (as heard on the infectious sing-along 'Satellite' and near-perfect flow of 'This Is Letting Go'). Less mid-tempo than its predecessor, 'Endgame' does still have a tendency to bleed into each other towards the end, as distinguishing marks become less prevalent. Much of this has to do with a few too many recycled riffs and licks courtesy of lead guitarist Zach Blair, although the occasional bluesy bar-room vibe experimented with is rather interesting. Elsewhere, Brandon Barnes' drumming still provides a solid foundation, while it has become redundant to suggest Joe Principe is right up there with the best bass players in existence.
"Some might say we've lost our way, but I believe we've not gone far enough" (from 'A Gentlemen's Coup') is an ominous lyric for those dissatisfied with the more accessible direction Rise Against have headed towards over their last two albums. However, with 'Endgame', the Chicago quartet have successfully consolidated on their rare ability to consistently integrate a punk rock aesthetic with a more mainstream rock appeal. No matter which extreme you believe it to favor, 'Endgame' sees Rise Against as fiery, passionate and motivated as ever, when it comes to their wide-reaching social commentary. "It's not too late, we have the rest of our lives" Tim McIlrath urges while looking for a savior on 'Satellite', before exclaiming "That's why we won't back down, we won't run and hide". One gets a strong feeling that he whole-heartedly means it!
Recommended Tracks: Architects, Survivor Guilt, Satellite & Help Is on the Way.
I have the same problem with this as with 'Appeal To Reason':
Tim just sounds uninspired and even bored most of the time. I can't help it, but compared to their older work he just leaves an impression of being foreced to do the lyrics, not wanting or loving to do them. The lyrics are as heartful as ever, but his voice isn't.
And even when they give a glimpse of the old fire, they kill it off again shortly after (see Architects). It's a shame if you ask me. I can understand what people like about this, but it's just not what I'm looking for in Rise Against
Solid and good review, as always Davey. I back up the wishes to Japan 101% for sure
And I'm sure you're not alone in your thoughts Damrod. Over the past 2 albums, Tim's vocals have been mixed as the dominant focus, so a listener's thoughts on those albums heavily depends upon what they think of them.
If anything, I do think there is a repetitive tone about the vocals (& that should have been more resolved on this album), but it does eventually come down to what - as you say - one is looking for in Rise Against.
I think that taking account of the big picture, it all works well enough... This is especially the case with the excellent lyrics evident here, which I disagree leave the impression that he is being forced to sing them.
Sorry Dev, I thought it was very much needed here. In fact, I don't think I'd ever truly taken in the meaning of the 'Appeal To Reason' album title until a long while after... Even as obvious as it was in retrospect.
And yes, 4 reviews in 7 days means I really need to take a break. The last 2 especially have taken a lot out of me.
not gonna lie... the intro to this review was completely out of place and forced. i feel for the thousands that have lost their lives as much as the next guy, but as an intro to the review, it feels forced. I know you're trying to make the connection between the title "Endgame" and the disaster in Japan, but i'm over here now and believe me, they don't see it that way. they're working their asses off to get back on their feet.
sorry. just kinda rubbed me the wrong way i s'pose. rest of the review was real good
You're entitled to your opinion renegadestrings & obviously something that is out of place & forced to a reader is something different to that of the writer... Because I can tell you I didn't force anything. Either way, I hope you or anyone else was in no way offended because that clearly was not the intention.
Not only was I trying to make the connection with the title of 'Endgame' but also some of the previous messages which Rise Against have been trying to convey over the years.
As for the Japanese working their asses off, I'm really glad to hear that. As a general rule, they tend to keep things very close to their chests & I really hope that their (for want of a better word) pride does not get in the way of allowing other nations to help.
I'm not surprised you would feel that way DavID. You won't be alone.
Thanks HBFS. No chance of me reviewing The Strokes album though. From the little discussions I have seen int he staff forum, that is gonna be one helluva interesting review, although I'm unsure who has it tbh.
Thanks SI. Some of the tracks towards the end of this album did eventually grow on me. You can see what the band are trying to do with them, but they are not entirely successful. No matter how much it all grows however, this is nowhere close to being in the same league as 'Sufferer'. How it stacks up with 'Appeal' seems to be running at 50-50 at the moment. Put it this way, if 'Savior' was on here, this would definitely be better.
That's great to hear that Sth Korea have opened their hearts & Japan have full accepted their contributions. That's a promising start.
Totally know what you mean SI. It's almost too consistent in a way.
I forgot to mention in the review that 'Wait For Me' is the closest thing to a ballad, but I would agree that an acoustic track would not have gone astray. Maybe they did take the backlash against 'Her of War' a little to heart. I doubt it, but who knows.